Tree of the week: Cupressus sempervirens stricta – Pencil pine – Graveyard cypress

Cupressus sempervirens Stricta is a columnar shaped conifer suitable for restricted spaces where shade is not required. This tree is believed to have originated from the Aegean islands. In the past, it was grown in graveyards hence the common name Graveyard cypress.

This drought, frost and heat tolerant species can reach a mature height of 12m, the crown is normally not more than 1m wide. The pencil pine is characterised with dense green to blue-green foliage. The fruits appear on the tree in the form of cones that are not showy. It has a life span of over a hundred years.

In landscapes, this tree is planted along an avenue or driveway or as a hedge or a screen to provide privacy. This fast grower is popular for formal plantings enhancing the architectural look of homes, or as a windbreak in large and small gardens. The pencil pine has minimal water requirements once established. It can be used in forest protection against desertification and soil conservation in hot areas, where the soil is shallow and degraded and no other forest tree species could grow. Its deep and dense litter and the crown are difficult to ignite, this makes it suitable as a firebreak.